Today's Member Spotlight features Part I of an interview with Anna Klecha by Erik Kondo.
ERIK: What brought you to Boston?
ANNA: My surgery. Or rather my surgeon. When I decided to go for a complex reconstructive surgery of my leg, which I knew had to involve an amputation and possibly a joint fusion, I took some time looking for the right person to do it. But nobody seemed competent enough. Also, nobody cared enough to go the extra mile by engaging other surgeons, prosthetists and physical therapists, whose collective insight was crucial in my case.
I was beginning to give up hope when I saw the work on bionic limbs by professor Hugh Herr, head of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab. I emailed him asking if he knew any surgeons who could do amputations nicely. I thought he would never reply anyway, after all I was just a stranger from across the ocean and he must have been very busy. He replied the next day, though, connecting me with Dr. Matthew Carty. That's how it all began.
ERIK: Where are you from and why did you need an amputation?
ANNA: I'm from Poland. I was born with a congenitally short femur and a club foot, which put me through a series of failed lengthening and reconstructive procedures in childhood. I ended up with an extremely short, highly deformed and dysfunctional limb, the only role of which was holding a primitive pseudo-prosthetic shell with a prosthetic foot at the end. It would lock my knee in extension for both walking and sitting so dragging a stiff leg was the only gait mechanics I'd known my entire life. Even though I was totally independent and relatively mobile, I didn't want that to be my reality forever.
In college, I began consulting limb lengthening and/or reconstructive surgeons around the world. It took me 10 years to accept the fact that the only improvement option I had was the removal of my foot. The idea was to reshape my leg into a more standard residual limb that can be fitted with a proper, technologically sophisticated prosthesis and a bending knee mechanism.
But it wasn't only about the gait mechanics. I hated my ugly, deformed limb. And I didn't accept my body because I didn't accept my leg so my decision to have part of it amputated was largely about my self-acceptance and body image. Because of all that, I didn't really experience amputation as limb loss - emotionally, it was actually very liberating for me.
Check back for PART II where Anna talks about her first time going surfing and rock climbing.